Public or perish: The evolving audience of the Walt Whitman Archive

Public or perish: The evolving audience of the Walt Whitman Archive

Main Page Content

Lunchtime lecture series explores how scholarly digital projects reach the public

Ed Folsom, Roy J. Carver Professor of English in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will present the next installment of the Public Digital Humanities for Lunch (PDH4L) series in his talk "Public or Perish: The Evolving Audience of the Walt Whitman Archive.” The talk will be take place from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18, in the third-floor English-Philosophy Building Gerber Lounge Room 304.

The talk explores how digital projects transcend scholarship and become part of the greater public. In preparation for the talk, Folsom, co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive, asks the following questions: “How do digital projects begun by scholars find their way to the public? How do the mysterious ways of the Web allow unsuspected audiences to find their way to the project?” Over the course of an illuminating hour, Folsom and attendees will begin to untangle the many threads for these possible answers.

“How a project responds to its changing, evolving audience is a key factor in the ways digital humanities soon become public humanities, regardless of initial intent,” Folsom says.

The Walt Whitman Archive is an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman's vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers. Whitman, America's most influential poet and arguably one of the most innovative and significant writers in United States history, is the most challenging of all American authors in terms of the textual difficulties his work presents. He left behind an enormous amount of written material, and his major life’s work, Leaves of Grass, was published in six very different editions, each of which was issued in a number of formats, creating a book that is probably best studied as numerous distinct creations rather than as a single revised work. His many notebooks, manuscript fragments, prose essays, letters, and voluminous journalistic articles all offer key cultural and biographical contexts for his poetry. The archive sets out to incorporate as much of this material as possible, drawing on the resources of libraries and collections from around the United States and around the world.

PDH4L presentations will be offered every week for the final part of the spring semester. On April 25, David Dowling, assistant professor in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will present “Escaping the Shallows: Deep Reading’s Revival in the Digital Age.” Dowling’s presentation explores the collective readings of complex long form journalism and books that are taking place through digital formats and social networking rather than offline and in isolation.

PDH4L talks throughout 2013 will focus on the nature and role of public digital humanities in contemporary culture. Over the course of this series, audiences will interact with prominent public digital humanities researchers and help shape the discussion of this rapidly rising field of study.

The PDH4L series is sponsored by the Digital Studio for Public Humanities (DSPH). All lectures are free and open to the public. Lunch is not provided, but participants are welcome to bring their own.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact Kyle Moody in advance at 513-593-9487.


Kyle Moody, Digital Studio for Public Humanities, 513-593-9487


Email Button